As many of you may have noticed - #TeamBacka has been traveling all over the place over the last month - finally getting a chance to visit our hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after two long years!!
Even though our life revolves around fishing, there's nothing like spending much-needed time with family and friends.
But for this piece, I thought I would chronicle my latest adventures in La Crosse, Wisconsin!
The journey to La Crosse actually started at the beginning of this year, when I reached out to my great friend, Kristine Fischer about helping out with this year's Women's Fishing Federation "Kayak Fishing Experience" event.
For those of you who don't know, the Women's Fishing Federation or "WFF", is an organization founded by Kristine Fischer, Amanda Brannon, and Mel Isaacs which is "dedicated to fostering women's involvement in the sport of kayak fishing through education, camaraderie and support".
Not surprisingly, she was ecstatic at the idea.
So planning began, and I hit up my good friend Susie Roloff, host of the Paddle N' Fin podcast series, "Adventures with Outdoorwoman", who also happens to be a teacher with the WFF, and we booked an adorable little cabin nearby the sold-out event venue at the Waters Edge Lakeside Cabins.
Months passed by, and before I knew it, the event was upon us!
Because Kristine is also an avid, competitive angler, the WFF event was scheduled the week prior to the the Hobie Bass Open Series on the Mississippi River, so I loaded up the truck and trailer with all of our gear, so Ryan and I would have everything we needed to compete - but Ryan wouldn't be flying up until the week of the BOS, so this was a trek I would be making alone.
With a 15 hour drive ahead of me, it would be the longest solo roadtrip I've ever undertaken.
Fortunately, Kristine happened to be in Texas at the time, and she and her family graciously offered to let myself and a few others spend the night at their house in Nebraska to cut the drive in half.
As you can see from the picture, her grandparents force-fed us a hefty, delicious breakfast the next morning!
With a little over 600 miles down, and another 400 to go, we hit the road early, and made our way up to La Crosse.
Once we got into town, I headed to the cabin to meet up with Susie, and enjoy some quality downtime.
The next morning, we both decided to sleep in, and hit the water in the afternoon - which turned out to be a great day, full of smallies, largemouth, AND my very first pike.
The next day was Friday, and the beginning of the event - with Bassmaster and FLW champ, Dion Hibdon who kicked things off with a class all about fishing and "skipping".
Next up was Susie's on-the-water safety course, filled with lots of tips and tricks, and a PFD inflation demonstration!! Followed by Kristine's class all about the differences in fishing rods.
Then it was time to teach my class, which was originally supposed to be a hands-on class all about how to clean your baitcaster - but due to a change in venue, and after noticing the need for it - I decided to focus on how to clean and USE a baitcaster - covering the basics, as well as how to fine-tune your reel to match what you're throwing.
Overall, the class seemed to be very well-received!
Through a labor of love by attendee, Emily Gerardo, and the trappings of the young, entrepreneurial lobsterman, Ben, of Ben's Lobsters, we enjoyed a fabulous lobster lunch with fresh lobster driven in all the way from Maine!
After lunch, was more classes with Kristine, all about breaking down water!
Then, later that night, we were invited out to dinner at Rocky's Supper Club by the wonderful people of Explore La Crosse
And to round out the evening, we had a blast around the firepit!
The next morning, we kicked classes off with Dion again, and learned all about jig fishing, and customizing your baits.
Followed by an on-the-water froggin' class taught by my great friend and angler, Guillermo Gonzalez!
After classes had concluded, it was time to raffle off all of the donations made by the amazing sponsors that help make this event possible - including a few of the same brands I'm proud to represent like Old Town Canoes & Kayaks, Mariner Sails, and Dakota Lithium!!
Later that night, we all enjoyed our last night together around the fire, sharing hilarious stories about the struggles of being a lady on the water "when nature calls", and recounting all of the best moments from the event!
The next morning, we all enjoyed fellowship over coffee and butter bars before everyone went their separate ways.
Overall? The event was a huge success.
This was my first opportunity to attend and join the ranks of the WFF as a teacher, passing on my fishing knowledge to other ladies, and I have to say, I'm so incredibly thankful to have been a part of it!
This special group of anglers represents everything our industry should be striving towards - teaching new anglers how to get out on the water safely, and make the most of every fishing experience.
The week was full of laughter, learning, love, lobster, and fishing - and most importantly, uplifting women in all of their adventures.
I hope all of the ladies that attended the event learned a lot, and left knowing that there's a whole group of amazing ladies cheering them on every time they hit the water!
So here's to all of the lady anglers out there, busting their tails to put fish in the boat, and empowering other ladies to do the same!
Tight lines, all!!
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